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These past few months have been incredible in the way they have pushed me to go in new directions with Island Epicurean. Specifically, I have been asked to do Instagram takeovers for local foodie events including, ‘Taste of Cayman 2019’ (@tasteofcayman) and Cayman Cookout’s ‘Barefoot BBQ’ for The Ritz-Carlton Experiences (@RCExperiences). The latter is an account that focuses on luxurious epicurean experiences that take place at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman (@ritzcarltongrandcayman), and recently I was asked to takeover their account once again for their Easter weekend ‘Beach BBQ’.

I knew that a barbecue hosted by the Ritz-Carlton was going to be far from typical, but I was not prepared for the extra surprises they had in store for us. Upon arrival we were greeted with a fruity rum punch and led to a table in front of the talented Native Touch, a local band that added a Caribbean vibe with their tunes. The buffet was plentiful and progressive as it spread across four main tables: cold section, hot section, a barbecue station and desserts. The cold section was the perfect starting point with fresh salads and raw dishes, including a snapper crudo in a passionfruit yuzu sauce, coconut shrimp ceviche, and seared tuna with a fruit salsa and mango mint sauce. The hot section was our next stop to gather a few sides for our main course. They consisted of grilled local baby vegetables, johnny cakes, fried onion rings, a flavourful rice jambalaya, cheesy broccoli and aged cheddar gratin, and a rich hominy corn casserole to name a few that made it onto my plate. The main spectacle was at the barbecue station, and they had the option of sausages, BBQ rubbed beef brisket, an adobo roasted chicken with a braised shallot jus and more. Though I am not a huge dessert fan I will always say “yes” whenever I’m at the Ritz-Carlton because they are always incredible! This all seems quite hearty and elevated for small children who were in attendance, but the Ritz-Carlton took care of them by having an adorable kids height table with some of their favourite foods - think chicken tenders, pizza, french fries and fruit salad.

The food and beverage may be what I promote the most whenever I attend events, but the surprise activities they had in store for us is what made this family friendly evening so unique. The talented Vikki Wheaton took to the stage and was our official activities coordinator that targeted primarily the kids, but also got parents, couples and the staff involved. The Bloody Bay Buccaneers were the first to come out sword fighting, training the kids to be pirates and a congo line around the dinner tables. Paul Abel and Shorlet Johnson came out in a blaze with risky and creative fire dancing skills that entertained the entire crowd. And finally a scavenger hunt where kids had to bring chef hats, socks, a tattooed person and more to the front to get points. We even got involved at this point as Tommy helped a little girl grab a point by walking up front to show off his tattoo. After the excitement of all the activities we took to the fire pit and embraced this child-like energy by roasting marshmallows by the sea.

We always expect to have an evening with impeccable service, creative and well-prepared food, delicious cocktails and more whenever we attend an event at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. It was extra satisfying to work alongside them in documenting this event for followers of @RCExperiences and I can’t wait to do it again!

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Wanting to feel like you have transported to northern Spain?  Then look no further than the Kimpton Seafire’s “Pintxos + Paella” night hosted at Avecita.   As soon as you enter, the restaurant is dripping with Spanish vibes; from hostesses dressed as if they were plucked off of a flamenco stage to the guitarist and drummer playing smooth tunes in the background.  The vegetarian paella station is just off from the bar and you can watch it be made from start to finish, whilst the pintxos are lined up across Avecita’s countertop.  This is not your typical Spanish tapas night in Cayman as the pintxos portions from Basque Country (northern Spain) are traditionally individualised and snack-like as you socialise with friends or family at a bar.  Typically you would expect these small bites to consist of a skewered item, usually to a piece of  bread, and Avecita has done a phenomenal job at sticking to tradition (pun intended) and incorporating their own modern twists.  This theme night strives for authenticity, so food products are imported to give you a true taste of Spain.  Classics including charcuterie and cheese boards, croquetas, patatas bravas and gambas can all be found, but the innovative creations in the form of a chistorra “hot dog” with spicy aioli and kimchi, marinated octopus in sherry and olive oil and burst-in-your-mouth olive spheres are uniquely found at this event.  Your beverage options are plenty with communal cocktails being served through the entertaining (and challenging) porron, a wine glass pitcher used in Spain.  After a quick lesson from the staff you’ll be pouring into your glass (or mouth) like a pro! Take advantage of their discounted beverages, including white and red sangrias by the glass or order a communal cocktail suitable for 2-4 guests (I loved the Birds of a Feather).  Even though you may already be full, save some space for their beautiful and tasty selection of desserts.  “Pintxos + Paella” runs until the end of March, but if the popularity keeps up we may see it continue into the summer months.  With a set price of CI$42 with gratuities for unlimited pintxos and paella, and a selection of crafted cocktails at discounted prices, why wouldn’t you try Avecita’s new Wednesday night.
















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Once again I was given the opportunity to work alongside media to enjoy, photograph and film my experience of this year’s Cayman Cookout. This four day weekend of gluttony is hosted by Chef Eric Ripert, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. This year’s headline chefs included José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, Emeril Lagasse, Dominique Crenn, Nancy Silverton, Emma Bengtsson and Amanda Cohen. Each year Cayman Cookout raises the bar with the caliber of chefs that they bring down and this year was no exception as they were all recognisable due to their cookbooks, television series, James Beard awards, Michelin stars and even a Noble Peace prize nod. Equally as talented beverage experts, consisting of mixologists, winemakers and distillers, were flown in to add to the weekend through educational tastings, creative concoctions and lovely meal pairings with their products. With talent like this who wouldn’t be excited for what was to come! I’ll give you the rundown on some of my favourite memories from Cayman Cookout 2019, from chef demonstrations to signature events, and how I almost beat Chef Ripert in Pétanque. Check it out!




 Chef Demonstrations:Chef Nancy Silverton’s Culinary Demo:

I was wary about chef demos even up to last year, but I have to admit I am now a convert. I absolutely adored watching Chef Nancy Silverton in her culinary demo because she created a meal that was true to her style of cooking - fresh, uncomplicated, Italian comfort food. As she stood on stage, with a glass of red wine, she showed us how make a variety of antipastis to go along with crusty garlic bread and a ball of mozzarella. This is a rare occurrence because most of these demos I wouldn’t even dream of trying at home, but I was completely inspired to make my own pesto, romesco, olive tapenade and caper berry relish. Not only was she charming, witty and responsive to questions, but her love for using her hands when cooking was clear. So clear, in fact, that she told me to throw out the new food processor I bought to make pesto and advised that I use a morter and pestel instead. Watch her episode on Netflix’s Chef's Table (season 3, episode 3) to understand what I’m talking about - it’s one of my favourite of the series.




“Olé José'“ with Chef José Andrés:

Olé José with Chef José Andrés is known among Cayman Cookout alum as the most popular culinary demo, so it was no surprise when it sold out within two days. Chef Andrés is known for his boisterous, ridiculous and adventurous entrances each year, and 2019 was no different. Instead of jumping out of a helicopter into the sea like in 2018, he went with something more unassuming. Everyone looked in all directions to see where he would come out from, but it was only as The Beatle’s “Yellow Submaine” crescendoed in the background that we paid attention to the toy-like submarine drifting towards us. It appeared to be large enough for a small child, and only when it started to drive (yes, drive!) onto the beach did we see the vehicle in its entirety. His entrance would not be complete without a fizzed up bottle of Moët and Chandon aimed at the onlooking crowd. What followed was an hour of entertaining preparation of his signature paella, love and remembrance for the late ‘Tony’ Bourdain, mention of his charitable work with World Central Kitchen and a lot of belly laughs.









 Unique Culinary Events:Flavours of Cayman

A new approach to the late Anthony Bourdain’s event Around The World, was taken on by “Bizarre Foods” host and chef, Andrew Zimmern, in the form of Flavours of Cayman. If you hoped for a steak or chicken dish then this event was not for you as it stayed true to Chef Zimmern’s love of exotic and culturally unique ingredients. Some of Cayman’s favourites showed up, including turtle stew from Cayman Cabana and local lionfish from Kaibo, whilst other local chefs showcased goat, sisig, beef tongue and rabbit. One of the most talked about dishes came from Tomfoodery Kitchen who served a green iguana rillette. Green iguana is an invasive species to Cayman and along with the culling efforts of the government some chefs have tried to get diners on board. For local and international guests at the event it was a chance to challenge themselves and try something new. Chef Zimmern visited each of the chefs to discuss their dish before ending the afternoon with an on-stage Q&A session for fans.







Cayman Cookout 2019 - Chefs Zimmern & Tennant vs Green Iguana - YouTube


Lionfish Culling

Lionfish Culling with Chef José Andrés, Chef Thomas Tennant and Jason Washington of Ambassador Divers is one of the most interesting events because it combines two of Cayman’s tourism products - scuba diving and foodie tourism. Home to some of the most beautiful reefs in the Caribbean it’s no wonder that scuba divers attending Cayman Cookout flock to this event. With only one dive boat fitting just over a dozen guests this event sold out on the first day! Following the two-tank dive where we culled 10 lionfish, guests were greeted on-shore with a picnic that could only be done by the likes of the Ritz-Carlton; lobster claws, Mediterranean vegetables, steak, fruit platters, cheeses and more. Whilst consuming some much needed food and sipping on local 1981 brews, guests watched on as Chef Andrés, Chef Tennant and Mr. Washington filmed an educational culinary demo on the invasive lionfish. Not only can you find this invasive delicacy on menus across Cayman, but Chef Andrés continues to be a huge advocate of the “eat ‘em to beat' ‘em” movement and serves lionfish in his restaurants in Miami and the Bahamas.






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You may not have thought that a hotel restaurant could serve incredible food, but Anchor & Den at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort has proven otherwise. Anchor & Den was one of six restaurants chosen across the Marriott brand globally, and the only one in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, to be a part of Chef’s Cut. Over the course of a week, all six participating restaurants allowed their chefs to shine by creating a 4 course dining experience that was personal to each of them. Stepping into the unknown was half the excitement as you only found out what was next on the menu as the chef brought out each dish.

From November 5-11th Anchor & Den hosted five dinners, each more creative than the last. All five nights they held two seatings and featured Chef Damian Manfre, who targeted his childhood memories of Argentinian cuisine; Chef Kilian Werner, who took diners on a gastronomic world tour; Chef Balakumar Ramaraj, who showcased the diversity of Indian cuisine; Executive Chef Steve Griffon, who highlighted cuisine from Paris and the French countryside; and Chef Andres Davila, who brought the diversity of Latin American cuisine to your plate. As intriguing and delicious as each of these dinners sounded, I could only attend two - Chef Damian Manfre’s “Discover Authentic Argentina” and Chef Andres Davila’s “The New Latin Cuisine”.

Knowing only a minute amount of information about Argentinian cuisine, I was expecting four courses with a lot of beef and perhaps some chimichurri. Luckily for everyone at the table, Chef Damian Manfre assured us that there was much more to Argentinian cooking. For our bread course we were served an airy, warm rye bread with a spoonful of addictive truffle butter (with my only wish being that I had more bread to smear it all on). Our first course took us to an unexpected cheese course - a brûléed camembert with thin toasted focaccia, herbaceous pesto and tomato chutney. For the second course the chef brought out one of my favourite foods, octopus. This tender octopus tentacle was served with a potato foam, translucent potato crisps, roasted potatoes and a romesco sauce. A pretty classic pairing of ingredients, but just done so elegantly. The third course was my anticipated beef dish, a perfectly medium rare CAB strip loin sous vide prior to searing and served with a pumpkin vanilla purée and roasted shallots. It was my first time having my steak sous vide and I am unsure if I can ever look at a grilled steak the same way. Before the meal came to a close we were given a sweet mango and lime gelée topped panna cotta for dessert. Overall, this meal was far from being the one I had envisioned when I first sat down and actually allowed me to taste the indigenous and Mediterranean flavours that make up Argentinian cuisine.






The finale of Chef’s Cut featured a Latin American dinner by Chef Andres Davila. Instead of honing in on one country he decided to merge different components of Latin American cuisine from the 20 countries that make up this region. A challenge in itself, but similarities across these cultures, ingredients and more were bound to make this an interesting dinner. Instead of serving the classic bread course, he opted to serve plantain and cassava (yuca) chips with a trio of sauces; a pickled chili dip, an earthy pepita (pumpkin seed) crema and finally a rich Peruvian huancaina sauce. The first course transported diners to the “coast” and it did not disappoint as we were given another trio of small bites in the form of ceviches. We all devoured the snapper with a Peruvian-style, yellow chili leche de tigre, the octopus with a tomatillo green agua chile and the shrimp served Ecuadorian-style with tomato and onion. For our second course, Chef Andres took us to the" “highlands” where his plate comprised of succulent pork belly with crispy crackling, beet purée, avocado, tomato, homemade blue corn tortilla chips and a polenta cake. Our third course was another surprise as the chef served an unassuming oxtail terrine with a corn purée, roasted carrots and plantain vinegar. It was mindblowingly delicious! Finally, we ended up in the “rainforest” for dessert where we received a light chocolate sponge cake with a passion fruit curd, mango tequila salsa and crunchy quinoa. Chef Andres ensured that his meal to close out Chef’s Cut was one to be remembered and everyone at the table felt that we experienced a unique tour of Latin American cuisine.

Being able to experience cuisines that are difficult to find on island easily is one of the reasons that I enjoy Anchor & Den so much. With the recent launch of their new menu and the multitude of events they host (basically one per month!) you can always find dishes targeting global cuisines more than any other restaurant on island. What’s more is they are an inclusive hotel with their events targeting their hotel guests, but also the local residents of Cayman. To learn more about their upcoming events from the Night Market to A&D Sessions and more, I strongly suggest that you follow them on Facebook and Instagram @anchorandden. I’ll see you there!










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Once again, Anchor & Den made sure that the residents of Cayman weren't left high and dry just because it's "low season".  Trying a completely new concept they launched A&D Sessions, an after-dark brunch event, this past June.  Instead of serving their classic breakfast items, they decided to showcase their versatility with some night time favourites.  Some of their best brunch stations obviously made the cut, including a selection of fresh seafood, charcuterie, crepes, carvery meats, salads and desserts.  I was particularly looking forward to trying out their new savory dishes, including the ramen station, where a flavourful pork broth was ladled over your choice of toppings, and the outdoor asado pit, where meats were grilled over an open flame to highlight this South American style of cooking.  On top of all of the food options, Anchor & Den ensured that you didn't get thirsty with range of satellite bars targeting every palate: gin & tonic, malbec, bubbles, their signature cocktails and even shareable cocktails for your group.  With no table reservations allowed, guests were able to roam around to try each station and sit wherever they pleased at any given time.  This is unique in itself for Cayman, but have no fear there was an abundance of seating available and the service remained at a high standard throughout the night.  This quarterly epicurean event is a great way to spend your Saturday night if you are looking for a boozy, food-filled evening with your crew.  A&D Sessions runs from 7-11 pm with the tickets being only CI$90, so make sure that you don't miss the next one and get your tickets in advance.  Also make sure that you have your cabbie on speed dial because this is one hell of a party!











 

 

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The Brasserie is one of Cayman's most influential restaurants in the farm-to-table scene and they recently celebrated their 20th anniversary this June.  Owners King & Lisa Flowers, Consultant Chef Dean Max and Chef de Cuisine Artemio Lopez of The Brasserie didn't hold back for this momentous occasion by flying in some of their former chef de cuisines to create an unforgettable evening.  This culinary event brought back Chef Thomas Tennant, currently the executive chef at Fi'lia by Michael Schwartz at the SLS Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas; Chef Joe Mizzoni, who has opened the award-winning Stubborn Seed in Miami, FL with longtime friend and Top Chef winner, Chef Jeremy Ford; Chef Brad Phillips, who is currently the chef de cuisine of Avocado Grill in Palm Beach Gardens, FL; and Chef Greg Vassos, a partner and executive chef of Brick Farm Tavern in Hopewell, NJ.  We can't forget about Chef Niven Patel and Chef Pushkar Marathe who are executive chefs and partners of the award-winning Ghee Indian Kitchen locations in Miami, FL.  Unfortunately Niven was unable to attend at the last minute, but luckily his partner Pushkar was there to save the day.

Chef Thomas Tennant torching his wahoo

 An education and tasting of golden honey from The Brasserie's beehive

The evening began with canapés and cocktails at the newest addition to the Cricket Square empire, Caboose.  This event was the perfect opportunity for guests to explore this casual outdoor smokehouse and mingle with one another.  On arrival, guests beelined to the bar to grab a glass of Szigeti sparkling wine, a Bilimbi cocktail or both (in my case).  A freshly popped bottle of bubbly is my go-to when I know it's a celebration, but I was also intrigued by the ingredients of the cocktail they were serving.  The Bilimbi cocktail consisted of Ilegal Joven mezcal, local bilimbi shrub, lemon juice and soda water.  The bilimbi skewer had a tart flavour on its own, but when mixed with a shrub (i.e. drinking vinegar) it actually rounded out the acidity and created quite a refreshing cocktail.

Drinks at the ready!

The Bilimbi cocktail

Six canapés were passed around as guests mingled and sipped on their welcome drinks.  Chef Artemio created a citrusy Rainbow Runner Ceviche, a creamy Pumpkin Toksel and a smoked Brisket Molote.  Chef Thomas Tennant served a crispy Land Crab Arancini with pepper jelly, Seared Wahoo with green mango salad and a hot vinegar Beef Tartare on breadfruit tostones.  





The night officially began when Consultant Chef Dean Max took to the mic to welcome everyone, introduce the chefs and congratulate the owners, King & Lisa Flowers.  The chefs each had a chance to welcome guests, but more importantly describe their dish for the upcoming five course meal with wine pairings.  After a few minutes of mouthwatering descriptions we were finally given the greenlight to head inside so our epicurean adventure could begin. 

The Brasserie's Consultant Chef Dean Max welcomes guests as Chef Greg Vassos looks on

Once our glasses were filled with a 2014 Petit Bernat Blanc from Oller del Mas, the first course by Chef Pushkar Marathe arrived.  With an award-winning Indian restaurant in Miami it was no surprise that he served a variety of Indian dishes with Caribbean flare.  His first two dishes included the Scotch Bonnet Pepper and Cheese Naan served with a gooseberry chutney, followed by a Breadfruit and Sweet Potato Chaat dressed with yogurt, tamarind and mint.  His third dish took on a more interactive approach as guests poured an earthy green juice inside of a Pani Puri filled with roasted garden beets.  We all heeded Chef Pushkar's warning to take it all in one bite, otherwise we were at risk of ruining our outfits.

 

A 2015 Macon-Milly-Lamartine from Les Heritiers due Comte LAFON was poured as the second course wine pairing.  Chef Joe served a perfectly roasted local snapper and combined it with slow stewed tomatoes, scotch bonnet peppers with crispy potatoes.  Honestly, I am not the biggest fan of snapper because most people undercook the skin, but I am proud to say that Chef Joe ensured it was perfectly crisp (just look at that photo!)

 

A 2012 Chimera Pinot Noir from Capiaux accompanied our third course from Chef Greg.   His succulent Niman Ranch Pork Belly was paired with Suriname cherries, apples, flowers and burnt honey.  A visually impressive dish that also melted in your mouth with each bite.  I definitely had an Oliver Twist moment in thinking "please sir, can I have some more?!"  Sadly, no more food was provided, but a few of us at the table did get another glass of that delicious pinot noir.

 

The fourth course created by Chef Brad consisted of a tender Sousvide Beef Tenderloin and Braised Beef Short Ribs (yes, all on one plate!)  His sides for this dish included a sweet potato puree, carrots, local callaloo and a flavourful seasoning pepper jus.  The wine pairing was a 2014 Benchmark Shiraz from Burge Wines, and like every other course it paired perfectly.

 

The fifth and final course came from the talented Brasserie pastry chefs and was paired with a dessert wine, specifically a 2016 Late Harvest Torrontes by Susana Balbo.  A combination of chocolate and fruit, the Valrhona Chocolate Royale consisted of a chocolate mousse with a passionfruit cremeaux and a side of coconut sorbet. 

After an evening of being wined and dined by some incredibly talented chefs, it is clear that the former chef de cuisines of The Brasserie have continued to thrive in the culinary world.  Note that I have already added all of their restaurants to my epicurean bucket list and will start planning trips in the coming years.  In regards to the owners, chefs, cooks and service staff of The Brasserie, they are deserve a massive pat on the back for accomplishing 20 years in this cutthroat industry.  Cheers!

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Coming together in the name of great food and charity will always pique my interest.  Assembling some of Cayman's best restaurants to raise funds for our island's young aspiring chefs had me saying, "where do I sign up!"  Chef Frederic Morineau of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman was able to do just that by asking his friends in the industry to contribute to a family-style meal in support of the Youth Culinary Team's trip to CARIFESTA in Barbados this summer.  Last year, the team placed second in the region and the hope of raising $20,000 will keep the dream of winning gold a reality.

 

The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman's Harbour Club pool area hosted this event and guests were welcomed by an Aperol spritz and a variety of light canapes.  Once the formal introductions and official welcoming speeches from Chef Frederic, Youth Services Coordinator, James Myles, and the Hon. Juliana O'Connor-Conolly concluded, we were all told to grab a seat at one of the two fifty foot tables lining the pool.  The dishes started to come out almost immediately and began with Chef Gilbert Cavallero of Cracked Conch's chilled tomato consommé with tomato jelly and tomato foam.  

The three remaining appetisers soon arrived for us to share and our family-style dining experience began.  Chef George Fowler of Calypso Grill served his famous crab cakes with a tangy caper sauce and lemons; owners Luigi & Christina Moxam of Cayman Cabana stayed true to their farm-to-table roots with a locally driven salad served with a seasoning pepper balsamic vinaigrette and smoky coconut bacon; lastly, Chef Sean Collins of Mise en Place served a citrusy ceviche with passionfruit and leche de tigre.  

We were already off to an incredible start - where I definitely went in for seconds - so I eagerly awaited our main course. The platters carrying the mains and sides soon came around for me to dive right in (after snapping some pictures of course!)  The proteins were created by Chef Shetty Vidyadhara of Blue Cilantro who served a spice rub prime rib with a red wine jus; Chef Massimo Defrancesca of the Kimpton Seafire lined up snapper fillets with a guava glaze and crab-pepper vinaigrette; and Chef Christian Reiter of The Wharf/Grand Old House presented an apple and local pumpkin stuffed chicken breast.  One may think that the side dishes would have been an afterthought, but not with this group of chefs!  The three sides included Chef Sandy Tuason of The Westin's local vegetables (long beans, tomatoes and seasoning peppers) tossed with a Greek vinaigrette, Chef Roman Kleinrath of LUCA's callaloo ricotta ravioli with a local tomato sauce and the Ritz-Carlton's tropical root gratin.  My obsession for having seconds was clear and I wondered how I was going to manage the dessert stations at this point.

After taking a breather between courses I knew I needed to push through, so I waddled over to the dessert stations.  Luckily, I was met halfway by Chef Sara Mair-Doak of Smokies who handed me one of her chocolate covered bacon skewers.  This was motivation enough to help me finish the night right and try the remaining desserts.  Chef Melissa Logan of the Ritz-Carlton served up a bourbon sauced sticky toffee pudding and her famous Fire & Ice S'mores ice cream popsicle topped with a marshmallow meringue and set ablaze.  Fittingly, the Youth Culinary Programme's Chef Brittany Bodden and her teammates showed off their skills with the creation of cassava cupcakes topped with berries and crème anglaise.  I have to emphasise here that Caymanians are obsessed with the "corner" part of cassava cake, so this cupcake version made my local girl dreams come true!

Not only was the Around the Table dinner an opportunity to raise money that will genuinely further the creativity, experience and confidence of Cayman's aspiring chefs, but it was a chance for diners to interact with new people.  I've always found family-style meals do an incredible job of breaking down our modern day social isolation barriers as you are forced to interact with your neighbours simply by passing plates, serving one another and finally conversing with them.  This was an incredibly successful evening for both of these reasons with some incredible food to boot, and I am so honoured to have been a part of it!  

I have to say a huge thank you to all of the chefs, restaurants, distributors and event planners that took the time to support the Youth Culinary Programme with this event:

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Too often we let our busy lives dictate how we eat; hurriedly consuming a to-go meal from a fast food joint just to get through the day.  This is why Slow Food Day exists, as a reminder that sometimes we need to slooooow down.  This international movement is embraced by more than 130 countries and allows us to appreciate our local farmers, sustainable ingredients, traditional cooking techniques and to promote small businesses.  Once again, Slow Food South Sound and Camana Bay joined forces to promote Cayman's farmers, artisans and restaurants.  This year they organised four events targeting epicureans of all ages and luckily I was able to participate in three of them.

 Farm-To-Table Tasting Market

This years Farm-To-Table Tasting Market was once again situated at The Crescent in Camana Bay.  With approximately a dozen restaurants ready to show off their transformation of local ingredients into innovative, wholesome and tasty dishes there was much to be excited about.  Some of the standouts this year included The Kimpton's flavourful and spicy tomato tartare, The Westin's scrumptious Nepalese lamb dumplings, Cayman Cabana's refreshing coconut ceviche, Agave Grill's complex pozole verde, Cracked Conch's whimsical and tasty salted lionfish foam and Lola's rich coconut & banana pie.  Foodies who made it to all of the vendors with their $10 tasting passport were entered in a raffle to win a $100 Camana Bay gift certificate - sadly, I'm not one hundred Camana bucks richer.  Besides trying all of the food on-site, festivalgoers were able to watch culinary demonstrations that utilised local ingredients and get their weekend farmer's market shop done.



The Kimpton Seafire Resort

Tomato Tartare


The Beach House @ Westin

Nepali Lamb Momo (Nepalese Lamb Dumplings)


Cayman Cabana

Coconut Ceviche with Local Sweet Potato Chips


Agave Grill

Pozole Verde with Chicken & Pork


Cracked Conch

Salted Lionfish Foam with Sorrel Jam Glaze, Jerk Young Coconut, Green Banana Chips and Tomato Vinaigrette


Lola

Coconut and Banana Pie with Scotch Bonnet Crème Anglaise


Farmer Clarence McLaughlin's booth


My Completed Tasting Passport

 Cayman Food Revolution's Seed2Plate Workshop

I was asked by Food Revolution Ambassador, Chef Maureen Cubbon, to be a team leader with this year's Seed2Plate Workshop.  This was an opportunity for me to see firsthand how passionate, knowledgeable and skilled Cayman's youth are when it comes to food.  The Seed2Plate programme aims to educate and actively engage the youth in learning more about where their food is coming from, creating healthy eating habits from an early age and even nurturing future chefs by teaching them how to cook a healthy meal.

During the workshop I lead a team of five young girls and we worked through a recipe provided by Chef Maureen; we chopped vegetables, sautéed our farm-raised ground beef, seasoned our dish and sliced buns for our "Super Sloppy Slow Joes".  Chef Maureen loves hiding vegetables in approachable, kid-friendly meals, so besides the staple ingredients we needed to create a sloppy joe, we were able to incorporate corn, carrots and lentils into our dish - sneaky sneaky.  After tasting it a few times, the girls decided it was "delicious!" and felt confident in sharing their creation with the other teams.  The other three teams served up bacon & callaloo mac & cheese, vegetable fritters and an Asian chicken & veggie stirfry.  They all tasted great and I was even more impressed when I remembered that these kids are only 8-12 years old!  Over the year's Cayman Food Revolution has continued to grow and I'm happy to report that the donations raised from Slow Food Day 2018 was enough to create another Seed2Plate school.  Learn more about them at http://bit.ly/CaymanFoodRevolution.


Super Sloppy Slow Joes
My team!
Vegetable Fritters
Participants & Team Leaders  Harvest Dinner

This year's feature chef for the Harvest Dinner was none other than local boy and UK Young Chef of the Year 2017 winner, Jack Barwick.  Along with the team from Pani Indian Kitchen, they created a menu focused on Indian flavours and traditional cooking techniques, all while utilising local ingredients.  The evening started out on the dock in front of Mizu with bubbles and passed canapés consisting of fish cakes, banana flower fritters and potato samosas.  We then moved to our seats and enjoyed an evening under the stars where a family style dinner was prepared with a selection of naan and plates consisting of local ingredients like snapper, goat, eggplant, moringa, cassava, yam and cherry tomatoes.  The red goat curry had a depth of flavour and was incredibly tender; I just wish we could have had more of it!  Though there were technical difficulties with the opening speeches, the food spoke for itself and demonstrated that Caribbean ingredients and Indian flavours can fuse well with one another.  





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Coco Fest came back for its 3rd year to celebrate all things coconut.  As one of the most abundant ingredients found in Cayman, and throughout the Caribbean, it's no wonder that coconuts have been a staple in our cuisine for generations.  I was excited to see how vendors would create sweet and savoury dishes utilising at least one part of the coconut; the oil, milk, water or meat.  On arrival to the stunning Pedro St. James Castle adults paid $5 entry knowing that some of the proceeds would go to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).  After that guests were able to roam around the courtyard and main grounds in search of food, drinks, games, crafts and live music.

 

On walking through the courtyard the aroma of cooked food hit you immediately (especially the smoke from Sam's Quality Jerk stand!), but that didn't stop other vendors like Island Taste, Saucha & VIVO from promoting their coconut creations.  Island Taste served guests their Taste of Cayman award-winning "Seafood Medley Rundown" where conch, shrimp, mahi mahi and breadkind stewed in coconut milk.  Saucha promoted their vegan, gluten-free and locally sourced lifestyle with dishes like green popcorn cooked in coconut oil, a coconut rundown with jerked eggplant and a delicious triple chocolate coco cupcake.  Vegan restaurant VIVO stuck to their roots and offered a vegetable coconut curry and a coconut "calamari" dish.  I was amazed that battering and frying coconut meat could actually imitate the texture of calamari!  All of these dishes were a true demonstration of how adaptable this Caribbean nut can be.

Island Taste's Seafood Medley Rundown

VIVO's coconut "calamari" with a spicy sauce

Saucha's (vegan & GF) Triple Chocolate Coco Cupcakes

I carried on to the breezy great lawn where a another dozen vendors were set up.  I always visit the Sweet As Can Be stall and get their luscious coconut jello, but this year they also did a toasted coconut pound cake which won the Coco Cake Competition.  As per usual Cayman Spirits Company provided the coconut cocktails and offered alcoholic (and virgin) "cocoladas" topped with grated coconut.  For guests seeking coconut in its purest form they could get one opened to drink the water and then halved to enjoy the coconut's tender, sweet meat for only three bucks.

Winner of the Coco Cake Competition, Carol Braggs of Sweet As Can Be with her daughter, Christy Whittaker 

Carol Braggs of Sweet As Can Be's winning Toasted Coconut Pound Cake.  Check them out at the George Town Farmer's Market!

Cayman Spirits Company's cocolada in their souvenir cup

Though many may think that coconuts are just for eating, drinking and cooking (obviously my favourite form), they can actually be used in a variety of ways.  Some truly creative minds have gone on to use local coconuts for beauty products and homemade crafts.  I regularly buy Healthy Alternatives' coconut oil from the farmer's market and at Coco Fest I decided to try their homemade beauty product line, specifically their tea tree serum.   

 

Each year the vendors at Coco Fest shine by coming up with new and innovative ideas on utilising every part of the coconut.  I tried some incredible coconut centric food, sipped on coconut rum cocktails and experimented with coconut beauty products.  You would think that I would be coco-ed out from a day dedicated to coconuts, but as an island girl I can never get enough of this versatile nut.

Healthy Alternatives's coconut oil, beauty products and more. Find them at the George Town Farmer's Market.

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5000+ festivalgoers and more than 35 vendors ensured that Taste of Cayman's 30th Anniversary was a success.  Guests were able to enjoy a variety of food vendors, specialty cocktail booths, on-stage culinary demos, a mixologist competition, live entertainment and so much more.  Even with all of this going on around me, my reasons for attending Taste of Cayman were that of an unapologetic epicurean.  As soon as the gates opened I rushed to the vendors that I felt would a) run out of food first and b) would end up with the longest lines.  Some restaurants use Taste of Cayman to showcase their creativity as a one-off dish or as the newest addition to their menu, whilst others use it to promote fan favourites that they already serve.  I've always preferred the former and use my tickets to try new creations, with the only exception being if Cayman Style Beef is on the menu - my weekly craving, bordering on addiction.

 

The Taste of Cayman judges agreed with some of my top picks and awarded "Best Food" to The Brasserie for their Chipotle Beef and Pulled Pork Sliders and "Best Local Dish" to Island Taste for their Seafood Medley Rundown.  The most coveted award, "Cayman's Favourite Restaurant", was decided by festivalgoers who gave their token to their favourite restaurant of the night.  This year The Beach House won this esteemed award with their Keema Pav, a mouthwatering minced lamb slider on a toasted soft bun.  Prize or not, I was really impressed with the originality behind Cayman Cabana's braised oxtail nachos and their refreshing coconut ceviche, as well as, Fidel Murphy's pigs in a (bacon!) blanket with a smoked gouda fondue. 


The Brasserie
Cayman Cabana
Fidel Murphy's Public House
The Beach House at The Westin
Island Taste  

This year there were a lot of collaborations between local liquor stores and alcohol brands, such as Tortuga Fine Wine & Spirits with Stolichnaya Vodka and "Best Drink" winner Jacques Scott with Tanqueray No. Ten Gin.  I waited until I was nice and full before checking out these booths, but I couldn't justify spending 7+ tickets on a fancy cocktail.  Rum Point had the best deal of the night and so like herded cattle we all stood in line to grab 1... 2... okay, 3 of their famous mudslides for only 1 ticket each!  Residents are well aware that these dessert-like cocktails are usually $10 a pop, so it's no surprise it was the must-have drink of the night. 

Rum Point's famous mudslides - Absolut vodka, Kahlua, Baileys (or Molly's Irish Cream) & ice all blended together!

The bonus of a media pass (Thanks Tower!) is that I was able to enjoy the Save the Date VIP area.  This year the benefits included priority parking, a secured area with an air-conditioned tent, a Grey Goose welcome cocktail, yummy canapés and an experience room voucher.  I'm sure everyone can agree that the real perk of VIP was access to air-conditioned fully functioning bathrooms instead of standard blue port-a-potties or a long walk back to Camana Bay.  If VIP guests felt at home in this area they could remain on the outdoor terrace to watch the live tribute bands for Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince and Journey perform on the main stage.  I abandoned my VIP post to get up-close to the Journey tribute band and share the experience through an Instagram live feed, but, more importantly, so I could geekily sing "Don't Stop Believing" into my air mic. 

The secure VIP entrance leading to the outdoor terrace

Glazed donuts from the talented Chef Brittanni Seymour of Scratch Gourmet Desserts in the VIP tent

Cory Scruggs of Sunshine Grill, teaching the Experience Room audience about Abuelo rum

Journey tribute band - need I say more <3

 

We all know that an event of this magnitude could not be achieved without the help of local sponsors.  I'd personally like to thank Tower Marketing for providing me with a VIP media pass to experience and blog about Cayman's largest food festival.  Happy 30th Taste of Cayman!

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